Porsche vehicles may be fast, but they’re not quick enough to outrun the rapid onset of emissions regulations. That’s why it revised all three powertrains in the 2024 Porsche Cayenne to run leaner, as well as meaner. But the performance brand had to make some difficult decisions on how and where its bestseller will be sold.
This refresh to the third-gen Cayenne represents the mid-size SUV’s most significant update since the Cayenne nameplate was introduced in 2002. The changes assure it will still be fresh when sold alongside the fourth generation that launches with the full battery electric Cayenne in 2026. The electric Porsche Macan arrives first in 2024. Until then, Porsche brought back a new iteration of the twin-turbo 4.0-liter V-8 in the Cayenne S, and it’s opting to forgo sales of the rip-roaring 650-hp Turbo GT in India, most Asian countries, and its home continent of Europe. Mark this the beginning of the end of the V-8.
It’s the 2024 Cayenne E-Hybrid plug-in hybrid that may provide the clearest indicator of where Porsche is going and how it’s going to get there.
For 2024, Porsche swaps in a 25.9-kwh battery pack in place of the former 17.9-kwh unit in the cargo floor. It will increase the electric range beyond the 15 miles of its predecessor, but Porsche could not certify by how much at press time.
In driving out of L.A. and into southern California—where Porsches seem as numerous as Teslas—it seemed as if 20 miles may be the new floor, with 30 miles of range as the possible ceiling. Instead of dramatic changes, the Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid continues to take incremental steps since it was first launched in 2011.
It now has an 11-kw onboard charger that lowers the charge time of the larger battery to 2.5 hours; the outgoing model had a 7.2-kw charger and a charge time of about three hours.
The E-Hybrid marries an updated 3.0-liter turbo-6 with a new but similarly sized electric motor producing 174 hp and 339 lb-ft of torque compared to 134 hp and 295 lb-ft in the predecessor. As a whole, output increases from 455 hp to 463 hp but torque drops from 516 lb-ft to 479 lb-ft. The more powerful motor hits harder and quicker, Porsche spokesperson Calvin Kim explained.
This results in a 0-60 mph time that improves by a tick, from 4.7 to 4.6 seconds, by Porsche’s measures. It sheds its 5,348-pound curb weight seemingly without effort, yet from a stop it doesn’t have the same front lift as the Cayenne S that hits 60 mph in 4.4 seconds with the Sport Plus pack. There are no known plans for the return of the 670-hp Turbo S E-Hybrid.
Cayenne S Coupe or E-Hybrid SUV?
I tested the Cayenne S Coupe in the morning and the Cayenne E-Hybrid SUV in the afternoon. It’s an imperfect comparison. The difference in the Coupe and SUV body styles is negligible at 65 pounds in favor of the SUV, but by my eye the Coupe better looks the Porsche part. Its tucked tail better mirrors the Taycan and, to a lesser degree, the 911. The cut into cargo space—3.2 cubic feet behind the rear seats—wasn’t that significant either.
Both models were equipped with the optional air suspension and sport exhaust system; the former made more sense for the E-Hybrid. The E-Hybrid felt heavier, chunkier, and the extra 474 pounds over the Cayenne S could be felt in turns, in spite of the standard adaptive dampers. The V-8 Coupe went in and out of turns with more grace and stability, and while cruising, it felt quieter. Even with the panoramic sunroof standard on the Coupe, it felt more cocooned than the E-Hybrid, which had 21-inch aero wheels instead of the 22-inch RS wheels on the Cayenne S. The Cayenne S Coupe was more fun.
The arguments for the Cayenne E-Hybrid could come down to HOV lane access, as one colleague pointed out, or price. At $93,350 ($4,000 more for the Coupe) to start, the E-Hybrid is cheaper than the $97,350 Cayenne S as well (the Coupe gets a big upcharge here of $6,400).
I’m not alone in preferring the Coupe. Porsche says that it accounts for 30% of Cayenne sales since launch, which nearly doubles the take rate of coupe-style SUVs from Mercedes and BMW.
Why buy the E-Hybrid?
On its own, the Sport or Sport+ modes optimize the power delivery from both sources to give the E-Hybrid that Porsche bite. And the Sport Exhaust system opens up the V-6 snarl when called upon, but otherwise the E-Hybrid prowls around in quiet with marginal road and wind nosie.
This dual nature is its key selling point, especially around L.A., where engines play hostage to stop and go traffic. All. The. Time.
NOTE: For those who don’t plan to plug in faithfully, this is not remotely a green vehicle or a high-mileage vehicle. The outgoing, higher-power 2023 Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid was rated 18 mpg. In a weeklong review of that version, Green Car Reports saw about 20 mpg in mixed driving there. Efficiency figures on the 2024 are yet to come.
The system defaults to electric power, yet Porsche mutes this electric prominence, mostly to good effect. Porsche digitized the cockpit to mimic the electric Porsche Taycan by swapping out the analog dials and replacing them with a 12.6-inch digital cluster offering up to seven views. They’re crystal clear and loaded with navigation and performance data, but can’t quite match the user friendliness of an Audi or the breadth and depth of the latest Mercedes interface. Beside it, a 12.3-inch touchscreen broadens the dash, which is flanked at the end by vertical vents like wing tips. The front passenger could play with an optional 10.9-inch touchscreen blocked from the driver’s view. With or without the option, that dash space is covered by the same black cover that might be better covered with some of Porsche’s finer materials.
Grab handles still stud the doors and flank the center console, which has a new haptic climate control panel and less clutter than its predecessor. The climate panel could use a bit more refinement to match the rest of the interior; push the heated seat button, for example, and the whole panel sinks momentarily with it.
All drive modes move to the steering wheel dial, and suspension and exhaust settings migrate to the center touchscreen. The gear selector moves up to the dash to the right of the steering wheel, and the start button sits left of the wheel. It’s neater, cleaner, and more reliant on digitization, but the analog Sport Chrono clock remains an option.
There’s no great announcement in any of the many displays that you’re driving a plug-in hybrid, yet the vital info can be found in due time. A battery charge display can be accessed in one of the cluster displays, and the estimated mileage appears in green in the combined tach/speedo display. It’s all very understated, muted almost.
An EV power display appears at the top of the tachometer in the high noon position. A blue bar cascades down when EV power is being used.
What’s with the Cayenne’s regenerative braking system?
Another bar in green cascades down to the left. That’s the regenerative brake dial. There’s no regen happening when you lift off the accelerator, only when the brake is pressed. It operates in the background, and feels like a missed opportunity still, same as in the last gen of regen.
The lone regen setting, which mixes in some of it, but not much, results in a non-linear brake feel. The pedal can be a touch soft at first then it firms up right quick when the mechanical brake takes hold. The handoff is noticeable though not jarring, and Kim says the current application is an adaptation of the regen system in the Taycan.
“The flow chart of how it works is very similar,” Kim said.
An 8-speed automatic transmission with either power source
The curious thing about Porsche’s plug-in hybrid system is the presence of the 8-speed automatic transmission, and how smooth it balances the different power demands.
In EV mode, it’ll show the transmission gear in the tachometer even though there are no revs displayed. At 45 mph or so, and with the transmission in seventh gear, I tapped the throttle and the engine came on, carrying over in seventh gear under blended power. In the same scenario, wanting to pass someone, I hit the throttle and the transmission downshifted to fourth gear as the engine took over. EV mode never fully locks out the engine. Above those speeds, in most circumstances, the engine works in concert with the “E machine” motor.
The engine connects to the motor then goes through the transmission and its torque converter before sending power through the center differential and lastly the rear differential. And the quite large battery pack is under the rear cargo floor, just behind the back seats.
You can play with the various hybrid and drive modes with the steering wheel dial, but the car responds to your inputs on its own based on the programming of the electronic control unit. It’s all very natural and predictable, and it preserves a small amount of battery power even when the gauges say it’s depleted.
But gaming the system can be fun. E-Hold brought the battery charge from empty to 10% on downhill twists through a canyon. I lost those gains back uphill in Hybrid Auto mode. But Sport mode along the coast, with stops every few miles or so, generated a lot of power to 25% or 10 miles, with the external temp at a sweet spot in the seventies and the climate control off. It’s not safe to extrapolate to a full charge of 40 miles, as road conditions and driving habits dictate the range estimate.
The least efficient mode is E-Charge that turns the engine into both a propulsion source and a generator. It powers the battery pack, so it’s best used to replenish the battery while cruising on the highway when the engine is operating in its most efficient state. I gained 10 electric-only miles in hard driving over about a 35-mile leg in E-Charge. Then, when off the highway, you can use electric propulsion over those last few miles before your destination. It drags on performance, of course, but being smart with power never goes out of style.
Sport and Sport+ modes tap both power sources for the optimal performance, and automatically activate the sport exhaust. The turbo V-6 lacks the more resonant thrum of the Cayenne S V-8, but it does much more than purr.
As in real estate and gerrymandering, location matters. Using electronic power to crawl through L.A.’s notorious traffic feels a lot better than stopping and starting a twin-turbo V-8. And assuming the larger battery and more potent motor lead to enough range to handle many commutes there and elsewhere in the country, the Cayenne E-Hybrid states its case without sacrificing Porsche power.
Porsche provided lodging and airfare for Green Car Reports to present this firsthand report.
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